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Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City), July 29, 2008: Health policy could push Utah kids out of CHIP

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Advocates for children and the poor say that making healthinsurance more affordable to more people is the right thing to do, but doing soat the expense of basic health coverage for some of Utah’s poorest kids is wrong.

In written and spoken testimony at a public hearingTuesday, advocates said a waiver being sought by the state Department of Healthto permit more low-income families into Utah’sPremium Partnership will in effect push out children now covered by Children’sHealth Insurance Program (CHIP).

If the federal waiver is approved, children whose parentsenroll in the premium subsidy plan, which helps a family pay premiums of aprivate insurance plan offered at work, would be denied CHIP coverage. Thewaiver would also extend the time a family must remain uninsured beforeenrolling in either plan — six months instead of the current 90-day waitingperiod.

“This policy may unfairly shift children from themore efficient, richer public coverage to the less efficient, more expensiveand more precarious private market,” said Karen Crompton, executivedirector of the child welfare research and advocacy group Voices for UtahChildren. “Such a policy would represent a retreat from guaranteeinginsurance to Utah’schildren to creating further financial hardship for the state’s workingfamilies and may ultimately compromise children’s health.”

Crompton and other advocates said a major concern is thatthe proposed changes, which are part of a package of health-care reformlegislation approved by state lawmakers in March, would disproportionatelyimpact lower-income Utahns. Eligibility for UPP is limited to working adultswith incomes 150 percent of the federal poverty level –$26,400 for a family of three per year or $2,200 per month.

CHIP includes children in families with incomes at 200percent of poverty. Expanding the private insurancemarket’s capacity to help get all Utahns insured is one of the first steps in ahealth-care reform effort that is expected to take 10 years. E-mail: jthalman@desnews.com

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